Travelogue

 

I embarked on this journey from what I saw as a secure home port 3,245 days ago. That’s as many as 108 months. Nearly nine years ago. Three times as long as it took Magellan’s expedition to sail around the globe for the first time. Unlike Magellan, I at least survived my adventure, although I feel that I also lost my way every now and then.

Among other things, my travelogue includes more than two months worth of meetings with Secretary Generals and Presidents, almost three weeks of SYL General Assemblies and hundreds of domestic business trips, even dozens of them abroad.

I am writing this on my last week of work as SYL’s Secretary General, and I’m looking back. It feels like a lifetime or even several ago when I answered, without thinking: “I don’t rightly know what a student union does, but of course I’m interested in joining its board!”

It’s likely that things proceeded in a logically consistent manner from there, or at least that’s what I’d like to believe. I first got interested in working at the student union board, then developing it and leading it, until I also saw it as a job opportunity. My ambition ultimately got me all the way to the top of the domain of student organisation operations.

In retrospective, the entire trip resembles a board game with clear squares I’ve progressed through, but there was rock music playing every now and then as well. Often it was loud enough to keep my ears ringing to this day. You just wanted to keep moving so badly. As far as you could go.

Challenging yourself is interesting, since you never run out of things to do. As long as you don’t lose your soul or yourself in that dance.

And I probably have lost some of myself. Or maybe not outright lost, but this Eero who’s exiting the university student movement after nine years is a rather different person than the future teacher in Finnish who entered it back then.

All good travelogues need to include rewarding friendships. Thankfully, I’ve had plenty of them. A special travel companion of mine has been my dear friend Antti Heikkinen. One of us is probably Don Quixote and the other one Sancho Panza, but neither of us is ever certain which one of us is which one.

The university student movement is much better today than when I started. It is more equal, more international, and more multifaceted than it was before. It is more effective, more inclusive, and more honest with itself. And it still wants to keep evolving in all those areas. Like it should.

It has been a great honour and a sincere joy to me personally to have been part of this historical continuity known as the university student movement. Perhaps I have also left a small mark on the history of the university student movement myself, but I’ll leave that for my successors to evaluate. I do not really feel the need to give an account or evaluate my accomplishments. I know I’m leaving behind a lot of good things, but also a lot of things I could have done better.

My voyage is just getting started, even if my service in this movement is ending. If my earlier vehicle was a paddle steamer that moved slowly even against gentle waves and mostly went around in circles in the home port, I now have at the very least an ocean liner set to find new worlds, all thanks to the university student movement. I suppose the captain of this ship has always been somewhere between the characters in Cervantes’ novel and Jack Sparrow, but someone who accepts the situation much more readily now than before.

Dear university student movement.

It has been a joy to serve.

 

Eero Manninen

SYL’s Secretary General

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